In News on September 26, 2013 at 9:19 am
A cadre of young Somali-American men are getting indoctrinated in the belief that it’s okay to attack people who disagree with you
More than 67 people have died at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall this past week in an attack attributed to a terrorist group that most Americans had never heard of, despite the fact that authorities have confirmed that several Americans, possibly from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, were among the attackers. Although al-Shabab is a radical Islamist terrorist group whose aim is to impose a strict interpretation of Sharia law on Somalia, it poses a legitimate threat to the United States.
Al-Shabab is both a symptom of Somalia’s state failures — factionalized elites, human-rights violations, and human flight—and a cause. Until two years ago, the group controlled Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu; and until a year ago, it controlled the vital port of Kismayo as well. In April 2013, in his yearly worldwide threat assessment, the Director of National Intelligence described al-Shabab as “largely in retreat.” Many consider the most recent attack on an unprotected shopping mall a sign of the group’s desperation.
Read Jessica’s article on Time Ideas: We Need to Worry About Somali Terrorists in the U.S.
In News on September 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Jessica presents “Talking to Terrorists” at the 2013 annual GRID two-day summit in Stockholm. In the talk, she describes how she has met terrorists with Kalashnikovs in Pakistan, interviewed neo-Nazis in America and Sweden, and visited the homes of terrorist leaders in Indonesia. But it was only after she faced her own suppressed trauma that she understood why she was more afraid to meet the victims than the terrorists themselves.
In News, Op-Ed on April 26, 2013 at 2:28 pm
A few times, I have felt myself in the presence of true evil. At those times, I learned what it means to have the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s not just an expression. It happened to me when I met with a leader who recruited cannon fodder for his “jihad,” and on a few other occasions in the last couple decades that I’ve spent interviewing terrorists to learn why they do what they do. But, more often, the evil I’ve witnessed has been banal. I have found myself able to understand the mistaken moral logic that can turn a boy into a terrorist.
Here’s a surprising thing. Almost everywhere — in Pakistan, in Indonesia, in Texas — terrorists offer you tea. Sometimes a full meal.
Otherwise, they are quite different from one another. Their motivations vary — from irredentism, to pleasing the God they claim to worship, to cleansing the Earth of the mud-people that contaminate the world of purity in their minds. Some live in war zones with grievances that are easy for outsiders to grasp; for others, living in the cushy West, the war that is taking place is principally in their own minds, often over identity. Some are paid, some are blackmailed. Some are recruited, and some recruit themselves to their own holy war, whether at home or far away.
Read Jessica’s article on talking with terrorists in Foreign Policy.
In News, Op-Ed on April 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm
The costs of the terrorism inspired by the war include much more than the number, however horrifying, of lives lost. The terrorists who have been drawn to Iraq since 2003 and survived have been battle-hardened after fighting the most sophisticated military in history, often working together with former officials from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. They have developed expertise in counterintelligence, gunrunning, forgery and smuggling. Smuggling routes and alliances that moved terrorists and supplies into Iraq during the height of the war, in 2006-7, have been reversed, allowing fighters and supplies to flow into neighboring countries, particularly Syria, now in its third year of civil war.
Read Jessica’s article in The New York Times.
In News, Op-Ed on February 28, 2013 at 3:00 am
Those who volunteer to defend their country know they are putting their lives at risk. But the troops and their families are only just beginning to understand the extent to which they are putting their mental health at risk. As we get better at keeping wounded warriors alive, we need to get better, and more serious, about developing tools for healing the injuries to the mind and brain that are often at least as destructive as more visible wounds.
Read Jessica’s Op-Ed at the Hoover Institution website.